The 2022 Season is in the books. While there’s still some playoff football to help us see how players do in the clutch, for dynasty players it’s a time to sit back, take stock and see how players fared. Over the next six Stock Watch pieces and the next three weeks, I’ll be looking back at the 2022 and 2021 classes by position. I’ll be evaluating if their stock rose, remained the same, or dropped during the course of the season. Now could be the time to sell high, buy low or hold on to a winning hand. Today, I’m looking at last year’s crop of running backs, who rose, who fell, and who stayed on neutral ground.
Stock Up: Travis Etienne, Jacksonville Jaguars
About: Etienne was one of two running backs in the Class of 2021 to receive First Round Draft Capital. But like everything with the Jaguars, his first year didn’t work out like planned. He was injured in Training Camp and didn’t take a snap during his rookie year. Maybe it was for the best. Heading into year two, he still seemed to be in a time-share with James Robinson, who had more carries to start the season. It didn’t take long for that to change. Robinson was traded to the Jets and disappeared, while Etienne took control of the backfield and thrived. Etienne started 12 games, rushing 220 times for 1,125 yards and five touchdowns, averaging over five yards per carry. He also caught 35 passes for 316 yards. He finished as RB15 and looks like a good bet in a burgeoning young offense.
Stock Up: Rhamondre Stevenson, New England Patriots
About: After a solid rookie season, Stevenson ended up being the best part of a flagging Patriots offense in 2022. He saw 210 carries for 1,040 yards and five touchdowns, averaging five yards per carry. He also caught 69 passes for 421 yards and a touchdown, making him a three-down workhorse back. With Damien Harris a free agent, a back who is entering year three that finished as RB 10 on the season seems like a great piece to build around. Let’s hope the Patriots feel the same.
Stock Up: Khalil Herbert, Chicago Bears
About: This is partly about production and partly about potential. Herbert had another strong year, showing flashes of what he can do with a consistent workload. In a supporting role, he turned 129 carries into 731 yards and four touchdowns, averaging an eye-popping 5.7 yards per carry. He also caught nine passes for 57 yards and a touchdown on just 12 targets. It’s still a small sample, but Herbert looks explosive when given a chance. And that is what makes this off-season so appealing. The Bears have money and cap space to improve the offensive line and build around Justin Fields, while veteran David Montgomery is a free agent. Most don’t expect Montgomery back, meaning it could open the door for Herbert to seize the starting role in 2023. Now is the time to scoop him up if you can.
Stock Neutral: Najee Harris, Pittsburgh Steelers
About: The Steelers’ offense as a whole went through growing pains in 2022 with a new quarterback and an offensive line that’s still a work in progress. In addition, Harris struggled with injuries that seemed to limit his effectiveness early in the season. Despite all that, he finished with his second straight 1,000-yard season. He had 1,034 yards and seven touchdowns on 272 carries, adding 41 receptions for 229 yards and three touchdowns. He finished as RB14. While a slight dip, his production was on par with his rookie year in terms of yards per touch and he looked much stronger as the Steelers’ offense coalesced with Kenny Pickett the last two months. Harris is still a solid dynasty bet, so if someone is panicked, buy the dip.
Stock Neutral: Chuba Hubbard, Carolina Panthers
About: Despite seeing Christian McCaffrey shipped to San Francisco, we didn’t get a year two explosion from Hubbard. He remained part of a committee with D’Onta Foreman. In fact, he saw fewer carries, yards, and receptions in year two, though his yards per carry was way up. Hubbard looks to be part of a committee running back approach. The good news is that he doesn’t have McCaffrey in front of him on the depth chart. The bad news is that the coach that drafted him is gone, and there are no guarantees about his role in a new scheme and administration. Hubbard’s draft capital wasn’t high for dynasty players but he doesn’t have much of a guaranteed return in 2023.
Stock Neutral: Kenneth Gainwell, Philadelphia Eagles
About: The Eagles’ offense was prolific but despite the hopes of some, Gainwell’s role didn’t change much. He had about the same production in 2022 as in his rookie year, part of a committee with Boston Scott behind starter Miles Sanders. He’s also playing with a prolific rushing quarterback who takes a number of goal-line opportunities away. Still, there’s a small sliver of potential here. Sanders is a free agent, and if he’s not back Gainwell could be in line to see his production jump. If the price is right, I’m acquiring him and stashing him to see how the off-season plays out.
Stock Down: Elijah Mitchell, San Francisco 49ers
About: Few running backs exploded more as a rookie than Mitchell, who looked like a force for the 49ers’ backfield. Heading into year two, his stock soared higher. Then came the injuries. Next came the trade for McCaffrey. In total, Mitchell finished his second year with 45 carries for 279 yards and two touchdowns, catching three passes for seven yards. Not what those that took him high in drafts, or paid a premium to acquire him, were hoping to see. Going forward, McCaffrey is the man in San Francisco. Mitchell is a great complimentary piece and an incredible handcuff, but it’s undeniable that his value has dramatically shifted in the span of one season.
Stock Down: Michael Carter, New York Jets
About: Carter was another play whose value soared after his rookie year. Heading into the off-season, Carter looked like a steal where he went in rookie drafts. Then the Jets drafted Breece Hall. Despite saying during the off-season Carter would have a big role, it was clear Hall was the guy. Even after Hall got injured, Carter split touches as a rusher and receiver. He finished with 402 yards and three touchdowns on 114 carries, catching 41 passes for 288 yards. That was after appearing in 16 games and starting 10. With Hall back all of next season, he’s not even a lock for those numbers. Carter is a role player with deep league flex appeal and little else at this point.
Stock Down: Trey Sermon, Philadelphia Eagles
About: Did you know Sermon was on the Eagles? It’s OK if you didn’t, he only had two carries for 19 yards this season. Sermon was a Third-Round pick by the 49ers, with many believing the former Ohio State product would be a great fit in the offense. It never materialized, with the 49ers releasing him before the season. He latched on to the Eagles but hasn’t made an impact. Perhaps he’ll get a look in 2023, but I wouldn’t bet on it. I’m not sure he should even be rostered at this point.
Matthew Fox is a die-hard NFL fan and Broncos’ homer. He’s a member of the FSWA. You can find more from him on Twitter @knighthawk7734 or as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast, a part of the Campus2Canton Network.